<< -- 2 -- John Bell Young A MAJOR PIANIST EMERGES
And then, by sheer coincidence or something more mysterious, along comes Nicolai Lomov, a 60-year-old Russian pianist. He is a product of the Soviet Cold War era, a period that turned out a number of gifted artists who have either long since died, were marginalized by politics, turned into conductors, or who simply gave up. Referred to me by two singers whose opinions I respect, Joanna Porackova and Maryte Bizinkauskas, I resolved to hear Lomov, though at first I had my doubts: yet another Russian pianist! Upon listening, any doubts swiftly evaporated. He was in a league by himself.
To say I was stunned is an understatement. Nicolai Lomov is a major discovery, a monumental addition to our collective musical heritage, and indeed, in my view, an international treasure. His modesty and old world demeanor (which are likely responsible for his having been off the radar in a highly competitive business) preceded him. Self-promotion is something as distasteful for him as it is unrepresentative of his art.
Why is Lomov a great pianist? Well, I could devote a detailed book to that subject, and explain it all in technical, historical, comparative, and aesthetic categories. It's easy enough, I suppose, to speak of the sheer finesse and subtlety of his pianism, his scholarship, his profound understanding of period styles, and the granitic authority of a technique so wholly comprehensive that it virtually collapses onto musical meaning as it surveys every affect, every intonation, and every phrase. His focus is laser-like, his command of tonal variety virtually efflorescent. Like Horowitz's and Sofronitsky's, Lomov's playing is multi-dimensional; it is immensely specific in the household of articulation, rhythm, temporal organization, and contrapuntal balance as to be uncanny. Lomov is a musician who acknowledges compositional events for what they are, in any given context. The illumination of a single pitch, for example, within a harmonic configuration will open an entirely new world of musical meaning in Lomov's hands where others simply ignore such potential.
But why bother to explain any of this, even to trained musicians, when the proof is so obviously borne aloft by Lomov's supernaturally communicative playing? There is something about it that defies explanation as it reaches beyond the head and into the heart, recalling Boris Pasternak's touching assessment of the music of Scriabin: 'No sooner do the melodies of his compositions appear then tears begin to stream from the corner of your eyes. Melodies, mingling with tears, flow directly through your nerves to your heart, and you weep, not from sadness, but because the way to your innermost being has been discerned so surely and so shrewdly.'
Without an aggressive protagonist in his corner singing his praises, Mr Lomov has long been at a disadvantage. He has no agent, and for years fate played his hand in the cruelest way, compelling him to labor at odd jobs, even as a janitor, to make ends meet. While youthful poseurs gain fame nowadays as they rake in tens of thousands of dollars for a single performance at Carnegie Hall, all the while pretending that swooning and grimacing are the equivalent of great music making, Mr Lomov, who is the genuine item, is casually ignored by the powers that be. It's an unforgivable scandal. Like the Howard Beale character in Paddy Chayefsky's chilling screenplay Network, I say, let's go to our windows and let out a uniform cry: 'To treat a great artist so poorly is as rotten a deal for him as it is for those of us who know and love music! We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore!'
Copyright © 2 October 2005
John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA